Can My Clinically Depressed Relative Get a Disability Waiver for Naturalization?
If you are helping a depressed friend or relative try to apply for a disability waiver of the U.S. naturalization test, you may be concerned that depression alone will not be enough to satisfy U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). However, with the right medical evidence, depression definitely can be enough to qualify for a disability waiver.
To qualify for a disability waiver, a naturalization applicant must have a “physical or developmental disability” or a “mental impairment.” The person's doctor will need to confirm that your relative suffers from depression on USCIS Form N-648. The doctor must do more, however, by also making clear that a connection (nexus) exists between the depression and the applicant's inability to take the naturalization test.
The immigration officer will not approve the request for a disability waiver if it is just somewhat or even extremely difficult for a naturalization applicant to study for and take the naturalization test. Instead, the doctor must confirm that, because of the person's depression, he or she is “unable” to take the naturalization test. For more information, see "How the USCIS Interviewer Will Approve or Deny an N-648 Disability Waiver."
Because an applicant must be “unable” to take the naturalization test, mild or even moderate depression might not be enough to qualify for a disability waiver. However, only a medical doctor can make the decision regarding whether your relative's particular form of depression makes him or her unable to take the naturalization test. For more information, see "Working With Your Relative's Doctor to Complete Form N-648."
Depression Is Often Accompanied By Other Medical Problems
People who suffer from depression often have other medical problems as well. And it is usually helpful if the doctor can mention, on Form N-648, these other medical problems and any negative affects that they may also have on your relative's ability to study for and take the naturalization test.
But too much information can also cause problems, for example when a doctor includes information about, a person's activities of daily living, as described in "How the USCIS Interviewer Will Approve or Deny an N-648 Disability Waiver."
The Immigration Officer May Be Biased Against Someone Who Is “Just Depressed”
Because depression generally causes problems with concentration and other mental functions that are essential to learning and retaining information, a Form N-648 completed by a doctor can be approved based on depression alone. (Again, so long as the doctor makes the nexus (connection) between depression and inability to take the naturalization test clear.)
But immigration officers, like everyone else, are sometimes biased. It is therefore possible that the immigration officer who interviews your relative will, for example, think that your relative is using depression as an excuse not to take that naturalization test. The officer may therefore ask cynical and disrespectful questions such as: “What do you do all day?” “Don't you have any friends?” and “Why don't you want to learn English?”
If the officer asks these sorts of questions, your relative or your relative's interpreter or attorney have a few options. One option is for the interpreter or attorney to interrupt the officer and politely ask why such questions are relevant. If the officer insists that they are relevant, the interpreter or attorney can ask to speak to a supervisor.
Another option, is for your relative to simply answer the questions politely. Then, if the officer seems to be ignoring the doctor's medical determination and is instead substituting his or her own opinion regarding whether your relative can take the naturalization test, ask to speak with a supervisor. When speaking with the supervisor, point out that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) memoranda regarding Form N-648 specifically state that if the doctor has made clear on Form N-648 the connection (nexus) between the applicant's disability and his or her inability to take the naturalization test, the immigration officer is not supposed to “second guess” the doctor's determination.
It is possible that the immigration officer will decide at the first naturalization interview that your relative's request for a disability waiver is not approvable. But that does not mean that your relative must then give up on becoming a U.S. citizen. For example, at the second naturalization interview, your relative can submit a new Form N-648 that includes the changes that the officer indicated were necessary at the first interview. For more information about what to do if USCIS refused to approve your relative's request for a disability waiver, see "What Happens If USCIS Rejects an N-648 Disability Waiver Request."